You might have seen graphic T-shirts floating about saying 'The Future is Female' or something else along the times of girl power. Feminism is a much-needed global movement and its impact in India is no exception, but it is commonly misunderstood as people only think about women empowerment when they first hear the word. It is not only about the denied rights of women, but about gender equality and the struggles of men as well.
Men face just as much as stereotypes, as women do. Bollywood doesn't excuse the objectification of a man's body either and in fact, perpetuates protective violence and anger as idealistic characteristics in the portrayal of a hero.
They are constantly mocked, by peers in particular, since childhood if they are disinterested in things like video games or outdoor games. The strict gender roles and toxic masculinity are very prominent. While some people encourage and accept girls to participate in sports and behave in a 'tomboyish' manner, it is still considered a scandal if a boy paints his nail.
While this conditioning is very harmful in the normal course of life as it does not allow boys to be who they really want to, it is even more harmful in some instances. Boys get physically assaulted and sexually abused too, but they feel threatened of being ridiculed and never share their problems. The mantra of 'Boys don't cry' is drenched in the collective belief of the society that since childhood they learn to suppress much of their emotions which results in frustration and often leads to anger.
In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare conducted a study to understand the degree of child abuse in India. They found that 53.22% children faced one or more forms of sexual abuse; among them, the number of boys abused was 52.94%. It is drilled in them to endure physical pain. Men also face domestic abuse, be it in relationships and marriage.
It is a pity that men don't speak about the abuse they face because their pain is then usually made the subject of petty jokes regarding who wears the pants in the relationship.
Men deserve freedom from patriarchal shackles just as much as women. Let him choose if he wants to play outside or not, give him the right to wear what he wants without being judged, make him understand that tall, dark and handsome is not the only way to be and that he should not be scared of his own emotions and insecurities and pain don't come on the basis of gender. Give him the choice to not work if he doesn't want to, he should not be the pressurized bread earner of the family. Instead of shaming people for their identities and tastes, we all ought to create an environment where we can breathe safely and are accepting of each other.
We are more alike than different, two halves of the same coin. Both suppressed for so long that it is a mystery as to what will happen when we break away from the shackles of patriarchy.
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